News Quiz

No. 405: “Can Do”

Earlier this month at a rally outside an Atlanta church, protestors held aloft empty cans. A similar gathering is set for this Saturday. What did the cans originally contain, and why are they featured in a rally? 

Send your answer by noon ET Sunday to

Wednesday’s Question (No. 404)—”Cheese Checks”:

You give the lead; I give the headline from a BBC story: “Prince Hairnet Prompts Cheese Checks.” (Question courtesy of Jill Pope.) 

“Or so says United States presidential hopeful George W. Bush.”—Dale Shuger

“This … is London. (Hey, I’m giving you a classic lead here! Hey!!!)”—Greg Diamond

“The Yanks continue to be completely baffled by our slang, according to a joint Oxford-Yale study. Well, twisted bootlaces to them.”— Noah Meyerson

“Finally, distraught Green Bay Packer fans have an explanation for their team’s mediocre season.”—Carl Dietrich

“Newly discovered verse of ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’ proves even John Lennon had occasional off day. Crumpled sheet of typing paper expected to fetch 1.5 billion pounds in online auction.”—Chris Kelly

Click for more answers.

Randy’s Wrap-Up

Cheese has always been one of the funniest foods. It’s stinky, it’s soft, it has vaguely sexual associations and, as a bonus, at any moment it might mock the French. There are distinctions within the category. For instance, soft cheeses are funnier than hard cheeses: Brie is funnier than Parmesan. But as a general principle, soft, stinky, and sexual are the requisites for humorous food. (Insert your own celebrity joke here. Try not to make it too misogynistic.) That is: Fish is funnier than meat. This could be illustrated on a simple pyramid-shaped chart featuring the seven food groups, if only the FDA weren’t so uptight about health and instead considered food a form of entertainment. (They’re similarly myopic about drugs.) For Johnny Carson fans, the funniest food was the prune. In part, this was simple keyword humor. That is, Burbank was a funny place because Johnny said so. Over and over and over. His persistence conditioned a compliant audience. (Out-of-towners. Determined to believe they were having fun. Probably pretty drunk.) But there’s more to it: Prunes are soft and are at least associated with strong odors, and while not obviously sexual, invoke bodily functions, generally for low-brow laughs to a bunch of geriatric hicks. Beans: same thing. (See: Blazing Saddles.) This is all discussed in my Comedy Theory workshop at the New School. Illustrative snacks will be served and chuckled over. And it’s a great place for Jewish singles to meet and greet.

Philippic Answer

Subhead: “Prince Philip did not follow hygiene regulations.”

Lead and more: “The Duke of Edinburgh has been caught up in a stir over contaminated cheese. The duke, who is touring Australia with the Queen, breached hygiene regulations during a visit to a cheese-making factory. He failed to put on a hairnet as required by the regulations. And now a vat containing 24 cubic-feet of cheese may have to be destroyed.”

  • Comical town named in story: Wagga Wagga
  • Comical clothing named in story: hairnet and bootees
  • Comical profession named in story: cheesemaker
  • Comical name named in story: Barry Lillywhite
  • Comical aspiration of comical person named in story: “It would be nice to make a special batch of Prince Philip cheese.”

Read more about it and see a photograph of 24 cubic feet of cheese and another of Prince Charles in a silly hat here.

Decontextualized Extra

“I see her going into a room by herself, sitting in a comfortable chair with a good view or taking it into the bathtub and shutting the door.”—Susan Wyland, managing editor of Real Simpleton, Time Inc.’s new magazine.

I have no idea what she’s talking about.

But I pray to God it’s not a handgun. And that she’s not one of those psychics who help the cops predict crimes. Maybe she’s just a regular gal with a very powerful telescope and a lot of love.

Correction: Time Inc.’s new magazine is called Real Simple.

Out-of-Town Extra

Both President Clinton and Pope John Paul II are on the road this week.

Which of the following refers to the president’s travels and which to the pope’s?

1. Stood atop Mount Nebo, gazing toward Jerusalem.

2. Had plane dip low over Julia Roberts’ swimming pool.

3. Canceled visit to village of Joypura for “security reasons.”

4. Canceled visit to Jericho because “It’s Ally McBeal night.”

5. Got on everyone’s nerves with repeated singing of “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”

6. Tour jackets feature shirtless St. Ignatius chugging a brewski under words “Rockin’ the Holy Land.”

7. Plans to retrace the steps of Jesus but in a cool dune buggy with a bitchin’ sound system.

8. Two white doves were released near his head at the Amman airport.

9. Ate an entire broasted chicken while flying over Bombay.

10. Security team instructed to scan crowd for “hotties who know how to use a set of rosary beads.”


1. Pope.

2. President (unconfirmed).

3. President.

4. Pope (unconfirmed).

5. Both (unconfirmed).

6. Steely Dan reunion tour (unconfirmed).

7. Actually, that’s my vacation plan.

8. Pope.

9. President (unconfirmed).

10. Jennifer Lopez on Grammy Night (unconfirmed).

Common Denominator

Annoyance with the question.